By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Aric Almirola had a rain plan, and it paid off with the top starting spot in Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
A rainout of Saturday's qualifying session put Almirola on the pole for the sixth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and left the title contenders scattered throughout the starting grid.
Jeff Burton will start second on the outside of the front row, with Almirola's Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Marcos Ambrose, taking the green flag from the third position.
With possible rain in the forecast for Saturday's qualifying session, Almirola and Ambrose posted the fastest lap they could in Friday's first practice session, because the starting order for the race, in the case of a rainout, is set according to speeds in opening practice.
"We went into practice with a plan," Almirola said. "Me and Marcos got a big run on the pack and put up a good lap. We knew that there was a small chance for rain. Obviously, under the circumstances, we thought it would good to put up a good lap, just in case it did rain.
"We had a plan and stuck to it, and it worked out."
Almirola recorded a top speed of 202.000 mph during first practice to snag the pole. Burton, who was part of the same draft that propelled Almirola to the top spot on the grid, ran 201.987 mph, with Ambrose third at 201.876 mph.
Martin Truex Jr. will start fourth, followed by Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, the top two Chase drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed the eighth position, with series leader Matt Kenseth 12th-one spot behind five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who trails Kenseth by four points in the title battle.
To Almirola, however, the excellent track position he will have to start the race -- always subject to the vagaries of the draft -- is secondary to the first pick of pit stalls at the 2.66-mile track. Almirola will pit his car in stall No. 1, closest to the exit from pit road.
"When they have those yellow-flag pit stops, being in stall No. 1, when they drop the jack, you just have to go a couple of feet to cross that scoring line for the exit of pit road," Almirola said. "That's going to be really important.
"The race jumbles up here so much. It's not like a typical race where, if you qualify on pole, you have a good shot at staying up front all day just because of track position. In this race, you can be leading one lap and 16th the very next lap."
Other Chase drivers will start as follows based on their speeds in first practice: Ryan Newman 17th, Joey Logano 18th, Jeff Gordon 19th, Clint Bowyer 20th, Kyle Busch 27th, Kasey Kahne 28th, Kurt Busch 30th and Kevin Harvick 33rd.
With the composition of the field set according to rainout rules, Sam Hornish Jr. failed to make the 43-car field because his No. 12 Ford had the fewest qualifying attempts this season among cars not already guaranteed starting positions.